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Rock v. Unemployment Compensation Board of Review

October 19, 2010

WILLIAM J. ROCK, PETITIONER
v.
UNEMPLOYMENT COMPENSATION BOARD OF REVIEW, RESPONDENT



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Butler

Submitted: August 6, 2010

BEFORE: HONORABLE DAN PELLEGRINI, Judge, HONORABLE PATRICIA A. McCULLOUGH, Judge, HONORABLE JOHNNY J. BUTLER, Judge.

OPINION

William J. Rock (Claimant) petitions, pro se, for review of the October 1, 2009 order of the Unemployment Compensation Board of Review (UCBR) affirming the Referee's decision denying him emergency unemployment compensation (EUC) benefits pursuant to Sections 4(x) and 403-A(i) of the Unemployment Compensation Law (Law),*fn1 and the Emergency Unemployment Act of 2008 (EUC Act of 2008).*fn2 The issues before this Court are: (1) whether the UCBR erred in its definition of remuneration and misapplied Section 4(x) of the Law; (2) whether the UCBR erred by including moving expense account monies when determining the wages attributable to the Claimant; and, (3) whether the UCBR penalized the Claimant for failure on the part of SPX Corporation (Employer) to properly apply the moving expense account provisions of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Code, and incorrectly treated expense reimbursement as income. For the following reasons, we vacate the order on appeal and remand this case to the UCBR.

In July of 2007, Claimant was hired by Employer as a finance professional, and was relocated to Pennsylvania from Michigan. He was paid a salary from July through December of 2007 when, for reasons unclear on this record, Claimant's employment ceased. In April of 2008, Claimant applied for unemployment compensation benefits, thereby establishing a base year period consisting of the four quarters of 2007 (i.e., January 1, 2007 through December 31, 2007).*fn3 Claimant had no base year wages during the first two quarters of 2007, before he was hired by Employer. During the third quarter of 2007, Claimant received $89,908.19 from Employer, which included $72,254.34 for relocation expenses paid to Claimant during that time. During the fourth quarter of 2007, Claimant received $19,791.56 from Employer, $2,483.86 of which was for purposes of relocation. Accordingly, Claimant received a total of $109,699.75 during his base year from Employer. Based upon the base year wages reported by Employer, Claimant received a weekly benefit of $539.00 to a maximum allowance of $14,014.00.*fn4

After exhausting his regular UC benefits in October of 2008, Claimant applied for EUC benefits. The Scranton UC Service Center issued multiple financial determinations, first denying EUC (October 16, 2008), then granting EUC (December 1, 2008), then ultimately denying EUC (December 3, 2008-revised). Claimant appealed and the Referee conducted a hearing on December 24, 2008, which was continued so that Claimant could present documentation to support his position. The continued hearing was held on March 30, 2009, but Claimant failed to appear. The Referee issued a decision denying Claimant benefits. Claimant appealed to the UCBR, which remanded the matter to the Referee to determine if Claimant had good cause for missing the March 30, 2009 hearing and, if so, to present evidence on the merits of his case. The Referee, acting as the UCBR's hearing examiner, conducted a hearing on June 30, 2009 at which Claimant demonstrated what the UCBR deemed was good cause for missing the March hearing. Claimant also presented evidence of his wages and reimbursements from Employer during the time of his employment. The UCBR issued a decision on October 1, 2009 affirming the Referee's determination and denying Claimant EUC benefits on the basis that Claimant did not have wages that were at least equal to one and a half times his highest quarterly wage. Claimant appealed to this Court.*fn5

On appeal, Claimant contends that he was paid wages in an amount that would make him eligible for EUC benefits. He argues that relocation/moving expenses are reimbursements as opposed to wages, and that the UCBR erred by including the relocation expense monies when calculating Claimant's wages for purposes of his EUC eligibility.

This Court has stated:

EUC benefits are federally funded and created pursuant to an act of Congress, specifically the [EUC Act of 2008]. The program is administered by the states. In Pennsylvania, a claimant seeking EUC benefits in Pennsylvania must meet the following requirements:

Unemployed claimants who are not eligible for regular UC from Pennsylvania, another state, the federal government or Canada may be eligible for EUC.

Eligibility requirements for receipt of regular UC are also applicable to EUC. For example, a claimant must be at least partially unemployed, able and available for suitable work, not disqualified for voluntarily leaving work, and not discharged for willful misconduct.

A claimant must also meet the following:

* Had a regular UC claim with a benefit year that ended on or after May 1, 2007, OR currently have a regular UC claim on which the claimant ...


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